June 8th, 2004


Broadband at last!

This saga goes back a decade to when I first moved into this place. This was a new neighbourhood then, and the phone company, Telstra, installed this new optic fibre backbone. The problem was that it came couple with a technology known as Pair Gain, which allowed one phone lines to be split into two, although Telstra still charged for two lines. Problem was, it limited data connection speeds to a miserable 19.6K. And optic fibre cannot support ADSL.

Efforts to get a proper, copper, phone line were to no avail, despite protests to my local politician, Senator Kate Lundy. he did take the matter up with the phone company. Pair Gain became something of a scandal.

Last year I sort of conceded defeat and asked for ISDN to be installed. I did not want this technology. It was expensive and did not promise more than 64K. However, since web sites now assume that you have broadband, dialup was becoming intolerable.

It took Telstra three months to install ISDN. Despite their mantra that it was available, it was, in fact, not.

This turned out better than expected. First of all, Telstra lowered the rates on ISDN as commercial customers left the service for the cheaper broadband solutions. Secondly, we devised a technical solution for Data Over Voice (DOV). This involved using the voice channel to send data, avoiding Telstra's time-charging of ISDN data calls. It also allows for the phone line to be taken out, to give a 128K channel, enough for most uploads and downloads.

The connection, a local call, cost 15c and lasts until Telstra cuts it off, which turned out to be twice a week. The cost of the two-line ISDN connection was less than that of two phone lines, so there was a small saving there. I expected to recover the cost of the connection and a second-hand Cisco router in a year. But it turned out that the savings in local calls was so great that the cost was recovered in just three months.

In the meantime, under pressure from the Senator, Telstra had begun ripping up the optic fibre and installing copper. Two attempts to get copper last year came to no avail. However, Telstra announced that everyone would have it by March. In May, they ran full page ads announcing that it was available to everyone in my suburb! This was intolerable. Now it was my fault that I didn't have it. I couldn't even register interest, because only people who lived in areas that couldn't get it could register interest! A check with their internal system revealed the truth: no one in my neighbourhood had it, although some people elsewhere in my town did.

So in April I tried again. A long, and ghastly phone conversation resulted. Eventually, and very reluctantly, Telstra agreed to raise a "transposition" request ie to move my phone from Optic fibre to copper. They said that it would take 6-8 weeks minimum, presumably before they decided, like they had twice done the year before, that it could not be done.

Since six weeks had passed, I rang them to ask how it was going. As usual, I was on hold for a good 40 minutes before they answered. I have learned to hate their stupid "We Are One" theme song and constant harping on the joys of Broadband.

They said that it had just been completed. My line was no longer Pair Gain. I was then transferred to Sales to order ADSL.

My head is still spinning.
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